One of the few albums I have found myself going back to lately is Safari Al's first album, Hermitage Academy. Coincidentally, no more than a week after re-discovering Al's mellow tones, his latest EP appeared in my inbox.
The Highlands EP is made up of six tracks, the first of which is titled, 'Homecoming'. Musically it has rounded edges. It flows dreamily with a distinctly indie feel about it. Vocally, however, there's an intensity that I wouldn't have seen coming from this usually laid back artist.
It doesn't take long for the mellow lyricist to appear as 'Windswept' sees Safari Al teetering on a tightrope between spoken word and softly delivered raps. The music is ambient, plenty of reverb, whimsical keys and sounds that merge to form a soundscape that puts me in mind of a bubbling stream.* Check out the video for this song below.
'La Mula Sabe' is a song of two halves. Beginning in much the same vein as 'Windswept' only giving way to a stark, yet beautiful string arrangement providing a sense of poignancy.
Track four, 'Saccharine' places Safari Al's vocals to the forefront. His delivery remains steady for the most part, though occasionally he picks up the pace, flawlessly tripping out syllables rapidly before exhibiting a silky singing style on the chorus. Musically this track is minimalist. Inflections of sound roll in and out like waves.
Al is again on form, vocally on the final track, 'Between The Trees (Antidepressant Outro)', the most up-beat song of the six.
*There's a distinct, organic feel to The Highlands EP which makes sense if you read the brief inspiration behind the project. Often I choose not to read the artist's introduction, choosing instead to see what images the music conjures up in my mind with no pre-conception. Having listened to the Highlands EP I then went back to the email: "This conceptual tape was recorded in the studio of his dear friend Colin, and is loosely inspired by a recent trip to Guatemala on behalf of Engineers Without Borders to build a spring water protection system for a rural village."
Safari Al continues to exhibit a talent for melody and harmonies, he's pulled in some, clearly, competent producers and the end result is a more mature offering than Hermitage Academy that manages to build on all the best attributes of that release.
The Highlands EP is released via internet label, Black Chalk and is available to download as a 'name your price' release now.
Bandcamp The Highlands EP